Dan and His Fascination with California! The Back Story Part 1 of 2

Carp Sunset 1

Carpinteria sunset 2020

At this moment, Hannah and I are flying over Iowa on our Jet Blue flight from Logan Airport in Boston to LAX in southern California.  For the seventh winter running, we have come to the Golden State to take a big bite out of the Maine winter.

boston to la map

So, why California and not Florida or your home for ten years, Arizona? you ask.  There’s something about California that has had a hold on me since my teenage years.  Here’s the back story.


During the mid-1960s in suburban north Jersey, I was buried on the depth chart in the pecking order at Fair Lawn High School.  Neither a Rah-rah (class leaders, athletes, the good looking, and/or cheerleaders) nor a Bopper (a hood with a black leather jacket), I did have my core of close friends.  Truth be told, we were all two or three orbits out from the In-Crowd.  (Somewhere beyond Uranus – that’s always funny.)

You see, my dad was the principal at FLHS when I was a student there.  Of course, that’s not his fault, but I was unable to break out of the expectations of how a principal’s son should behave.  I was not about to go Footloose on anyone.  And to compound the challenge, as a first child, I was born with the double obedience gene.

Carp Mamas Papas

With a transistor radio pressed to my ear, I listened to Cousin Brucie and Big Dan Ingram on WABC as I connected with the Beach Boys and the Mamas and Papas.  My head filled with what life might be like on the Left Coast.  You see, California seemed to be everything New Jersey was not.  Sunshine, palm trees, surfing, and especially surfer girls!

John Philips of the aforementioned Mamas and Papas spoke to me.  Go where you wanna go and do what you wanna do.  Pretty seductive to a dreamer like me.

Carp Sunset 2

Carpinteria sunset 2020

So the fascination with California comes from my desire to escape a teenage life of daily expectations and impossible standards, self-imposed and otherwise.  Escape from being the good boy, the dutiful one who was flexible to a fault.

As a college senior, I got 85% of the way to California by transferring to Arizona State University.  Upon graduation, I jumped at the chance to teach at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Anaheim, California (25 miles south of Los Angeles).  Though my teaching career ended before it began four months later due to complications with the draft during the Viet Nam War, California continued to have a hold on me.  Though Maine is home, my heart strings pull me to California each winter.

Carp Sunset 3

Carpinteria sunset 2020

And today landing at LAX, I am already California Dreamin’.  (You see, the Mamas and Papas were kind of life coaches for me.)

Dan and Hannah Fly West to do some California Dreamin’

ah california dreamin mamas and papas

The winter of 2013-2014 in New England has been a nasty cold one, specifically on the coast of Maine.  We’ve shoveled more snow and endured more days with wind chills below zero than we would choose.  You got to be thinking, For crying out loud, you live in Maine, Mr. and Mrs. Wimp!  True, but…

Our backyard in York, Maine

Our backyard in York, Maine

One cold December morning while I am having coffee and a bran muffin at the Crumb, our local cafe, with our friends Scott and Tree, they mention that they are leaving town for three months.  Wanting to be outside more than they can be in the frozen tundra of York, Maine, they are renting a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) house on the northern coast of California; they ask Hannah and me to be their guests.

With the seed planted, I start exploring the solar system of cost.  I find that Jet Blue has little penalty for flying from Boston to Los Angeles and then home from San Francisco to Boston.  In fact, we two can go non-stop cross country for around $630.  You must notice that the planets are beginning to align.

planets 2

Then Venus steps into view when I learn that Fox Rent-A-Car charges one third what every other national chain charges.  Can you believe we can rent a compact car for $136 with unlimited miles for nine days to drive the coast of California!

Finally Mars appears as we can park Hannah’s Honda Civic at the Park, Ride, and Fly lot in Revere, MA, just three miles from Logan Airport for just $100 for nine days.    The round trip from Portsmouth to Boston and back on a C and J Trailways bus costs $46 for each of us!

Awake at 4A on Tuesday, off to the airport by 5A, we are ready for our six hour flight to Los Angeles that, with the time change, will make ours a 27 hour day.

plane at logan

Jet Blue is my airline of choice because of the mini-TVs that face each seat.  As an insufferable channel surfer, I get six hours of The Dan Patrick Show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, How I Met Your Mother, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.  TV Dan is flying high!

The Dan Patrick Show

The Dan Patrick Show

Do you know what the modern airline gives you to eat for a six hour flight in 2014?  Not much.  Some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and about eight mini-chocolate chip cookies.  C’est toute.  Knowing this we bring half of last night’s Subway subs for our lunch.  I eat mine at 830A!

dunkin coffee and cookies

It’s cramped; it’s long; but for $315 Hannah and I will be in Los Angeles before noon.  Our friends Scott and Tree rocked a road trip for six days to cross the country.

Noontime temperature in the City of Angels

Noontime temperature in the City of Angels

We are Saturning it (stick with me with the planets are aligned metaphor) at LAX.  The shuttle for the Fox Rent A Car arrives as we approach.  At Fox, there are six attendants and we get a Toyota Corolla in ten minutes!  Heading 30 miles north on I-405 to The 101 for Agoura Hills, we are two hours before the 3P rush hour begins.  If the planets are not aligned and this isn’t the Age of Aquarius, I don’t know what is!

LA traffic

With, for California, manageable traffic, we arrive at Rose and Mike’s by 115P.  You do the math.  We leave York in the predawn on the East coast and in the early afternoon we are ready to hike in the hills near Los Angeles.

Not ten miles from their place, off The 101  Rose and Mike take us on an hour hike in the drought ravaged hills in the LA basin.  This winter the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada is just 12% of normal.  Trouble with a capital T lies ahead.

D and H at Cheeseboro trail sign

Pairing off in twos, we hike on the Cheeseboro Palo Canyon Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area that we share with mountain bikers.

cheese trail 1

Rose goes back 20 years with Hannah when they worked together for the Visiting Nurses Association in Portsmouth, NH.  For two years, they laughed together, cried together, and had the best time any employees could have.  They pick up like old friends, like sisters would.

Hannah and Rose leading the way

Hannah and Rose leading the way

The steady climb of the Cheeseboro Trail

The steady climb of the Cheeseboro Palo Canyon Trail

The face of drought in California

The face of drought in California

Back at their place at the end of the day, we look over the canyon from their deck with a glass of wine.  I swear I see Jupiter rising above the horizon!

canyon view

I have known Rose as Hannah’s friend, but until hiking today I never had really spent any time just talking to Mike.  Married later in life, Rose and Mike have to come to California and made a fine life for themselves.  But today I get the underlying reason why Rose digs Mike.

Mike and Rose

Mike and Rose

Though Mike is energetic and passionate in everything that he does…  Though he has a childlike joy of life and an adventurous spirit…  Today I see that it is his kindness and his genuine caring of her that carries the day.

The planets truly are aligning.